Archive for Sunday, February 10, 2002

Mormons fine, but watch out for Jell-O

February 10, 2002

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Salt Lake Maximum Security Compound  Any day now, I promise to report on an actual Olympic sporting event. But first I want to tell you more about this fascinating place called Utah, which is nicknamed "The Beehive State," and for a very good reason: All the other nicknames were taken.

The main thing I've noticed is that most people here act very friendly. They even act friendly toward the news media, despite the fact that they suspect (correctly) that WE suspect that they are members of a huge weird religious cult featuring multiple wives and secret underwear. We suspect this because downtown Salt Lake City is dominated by giant mysterious Mormon buildings that we're not allowed to enter. Naturally, we wonder what's going on in there. Human sacrifice? Nude Jell-O wrestling?

TRUE FACT: Utah leads the nation in per capita Jell-O consumption.

The thing is, all religions seem weird if you're not familiar with them. For example, as a child in Armonk, N.Y., I attended St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, which had an unusual tradition, which I am not making up: On Easter Sunday, every member of the congregation was given a potted hyacinth, and then we'd sing a song with a lot of "alleluias" in it, and on every single alleluia, we'd all raise our hyacinths over our heads. If Mormons had walked in while this was going on, they'd have naturally assumed that we were a bunch of flower-worshipping wackos getting ready for some kind of bizarre cross-pollination ritual.

So far be it from me to make fun of anybody's religion. But I will admit I was concerned because of stories I'd heard about aggressive Mormon proselytizing. I was afraid that I'd be walking past one of the giant Mormon buildings when WHOA a sidewalk trapdoor would open and I'd fall into a secret basement proselytizing dungeon equipped with torture instruments and (even worse) lime Jell-O.

But nothing like that has happened. In fact, the only person who has approached me in a remotely proselytizing manner on the streets of Salt Lake City was a man named Yan Sun, who's with Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual group that's being persecuted by the government of China. I know this because Yan Sun attached himself to me, barnacle-like, and stayed with me for five blocks, talking relentlessly, and the only way I could make him go away was by promising to write about his cause. So here goes:

HEY CHINA! LAY OFF FALUN GONG! OR ELSE!

Also on the streets of Salt Lake City I saw a person striding along wearing a moose costume. I have no idea why. This could be a Mormon thing.

One final Utah mystery: In a shopping mall here, I saw an escalator with signs reading "CAUTION: PASSENGERS ONLY."

Early Olympic competition result: In a major upset, Grzjkystan defeated heavily favored Zrbykjstan in the finals of the men's 8-meter snowball fight.

Security update: In what has been termed "an unfortunate mishap," a Norwegian ski jumper exceeded the prescribed altitude and was shot down by an F-1.

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